Stopping outside the warehouse of the company Harley Kraus, I walked past the rows of parked cars, all company vehicles.
Among them was the managing director’s car, which was always a Holden Statesman. The other executives’ cars and the representatives’ vehicles were mainly station wagons, like mine. There must have been a sales meeting in progress because the whole car park was occupied with company cars, with no space to spare.
Parking in their large driveway where a sign indicated ‘No Parking Allowed’ - we had an understanding in this matter- I had walked purposefully into their warehouse, where a group of salesmen were standing around, cheery, laughing and eager to explain to me the reason for their hilarity. But this was done in a roundabout way.
‘Did you see all the cars outside?’ Lyle, their Senior Salesman made a start. ‘Yes? Did you see our country traveller’s car, parked outside our managing director’s window? Ha, ha. . . ‘ He had to stop to cope with another attack of laughter. Actually everybody in the warehouse seemed to be in an unusual state of merriment. They all laughed, from storemen, the representatives, to the cleaning lady. I felt like an undertaker at a clowns’ convention!
I probed Lyle again: ‘What is so funny about your country traveller’s car? Go on, tell me. I could do with a good laugh!’
‘Go and have a look at his car. You can’t miss it. It’s parked right outside the managing director’s window.’ He could not speak any further as he was doubling-up again.
‘All this guffawing and nobody tells me the reason!’ I muttered. And since I am not inquisitive, just a bit nosey, I keenly walked back outside to find out more about this. In the company car park, I found the managing director’s window and sure enough there was a traveller’s station wagon parked outside it. It looked clean and shiny and peering into it from one side, I noticed it filled up with samples and rugs, literature and leaflets. There was an order book and even a pair of gum boots for rainy days and rough roads in the country. I saw nothing unusual and felt disappointed.
Back I went into the warehouse and confronted Lyle: ‘What is so funny? This car looks like my own car; perhaps a bit cleaner. It seems to have been washed recently!’
The laughter around me started again and Lyle offered further assistance: ‘Go outside again and have another look at it from the other side, the street side, you know, away from the window.’
Feeling a bit silly and irritated, I went out again to the car and walked around it to the side facing away from the managing director’s window. I stood stunned, staring in disbelief. The other side was the filthiest car I had ever seen. There seemed to be the dirt of centuries of country trips sticking to it, with bundles of grass peering at me from behind the mudguards. The side windows, smeared with red dirt, seemed opaque, giving complete privacy. But only on this one side! Looking at the car from both sides I saw that it had been carefully washed and polished - but only on the side facing the managing director’s office window. There was a clear demarcation line right in the middle of it, separating civilisation from wilderness.
‘That is incredible’, I exclaimed, rejoining the crowd inside the building.‘What is the story behind all of this?’
And then they explained: ‘Every time we have our weekly sales meeting, our country representative, you know old Bill, a bit rough and uncouth, comes straight from his country trip and always parks his dirty car smack right outside the managing director’s window. And his whole wagon always looks like the dirty half you’ve just seen. So, whenever we have our sales meeting, the old man sees this filthy, dirty company car outside his window and doesn’t like it! So, last week, he sent a message to the country representative: if his car was not cleaned to a shine he was not to park it outside his window. He doesn’t want so see all that filth . . .’ More derisive laughter all round.
‘So, to please him, our Bill, great joker he is, carefully washed the side facing the window. And the managing director is now happy.’
Shaking my head and laughing, I completed my business there. Life was wonderful, I thought, full of funny incidents - nobody could make up such a story! Reality was much funnier.